Penny Pinchers

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Prepping for Valentine’s Day

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Yes, I realize Valentine's day is still 11 days away, but it's never too early to start prepping! We never go out on Valentine's.  To us, a great meal together at home is just as special.  I try to "fancy it up" a little bit but at the same time I don't want to do so much that I end up tired and sweaty byt the time dinner is ready.  This year we decided on a simple menu:

Surf n Turf (surf being whatever seafood I found on sale and turf being a splurge on grass-fed filet mignons)

Caesar Salad

Some sort of roasted vegetable

A dessert of double-caramel sundaes (caramel ice cream topped with caramel sauce, nuts and whipped cream)

Today while I was at Safeway I decided to check out the seafood and lo and behold I found Waterfront Bistro shrimp on sale! I got a 2lb bag of large, raw shrimp for $15 (regularly $23).  Later I realized they weren't wild caught, but still...what a great deal! We'll have plenty for Valentine's Day AND another meal, which is even better.

So Valentine's Day doesn't have to cost a fortune.  In face today I saw all sorts of great beef options in the clearance bin: 50% off flat iron steak, steaks and roasts, and even lamb chops!  Shrimp like those I got would feed a whole family if you added them to pasta and made a big batch of shrimp fettucini alfredo.  That along with a side of asparagus or roasted broccoli would make a lovely meal.

In the end, isn't it really about celebrating with the ones you love anyway?


My Annual Safeway Savings

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

We all know that one of the ways I save money at the grocery store is by using Safeway's "Just for U" personalized deals program. In conjunction with their digital coupons and in-store sale items, I can save usually 15% of my grocery bill.  The Just for U personalized deals sometimes aren't for things I'm buying anymore, but often I can save on produce, which I really appreciate.  Today I got an email with my annual Just for U savings report: 

So that means that just with the personalized deals portion of Safeway's ways to save, I saved $12 a month.  It might not seem like much, but in the days of "every little bit helps" that money adds up!  Just yesterday I was able to find 2 tuna steaks and a large package of tilapia for fish tacos ALL 50% off! If you can't invest any other way, investing in food will often help you more than anything else.


5 Penny Pinches

By Julie Norman
Friday, January 23, 2015

The Frugal Girl sent out a 5 Frugal Things email today, so I thought I'd attempt a 5 Penny Pinches blog post for you.


1. I've been getting lots of free exercise lately AND saving on gas by taking run/walks on my lunch break down on our Riverfront Trail.  It's about 1/4 mile from work, so I can get there, run/walk, and get back to work well within my lunch hour.  The other day I saw this guy:

2. I made 2 loaves of King Arthur Back-of-the-Bag Oatmeal Bread last week.  I did NOT use King Arthur flour because the store brand is less expensive and just as good!

3. For Christmas a friend got me the Thug Kitchen cookbook.  If you aren't easily offended by explitives, check it out! The recipes end up being fairly inexpensive because they're all vegetarian.  Most are actually vegan and gluten free.  This week we had the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas.

(image from Click the image to be taken to the Amazon page about it.

4. In making several recipes this week I've dug into the freezer for bags of frozen zucchini, butternut squash and tomatoes from last season's harvest. It's been great to use up some of those items in anticipation of an even better garden this year!

5. Speaking of the garden...we've started planning.  Penny over at Let's Get Dirty, can prove that's a little bit cheaper (though time consuming) to have your own garden! For us I think that definitely proved true.  I still buy lots of produce, but having peaches, plums, squash and other items on hand has been very helpful this year.


More ideas about MYO soup stocks

By Julie Norman
Friday, January 16, 2015

I've talked before about making my own stocks either from vegetable scraps or from chicken/turkey bones.  It's way cheaper than buying stock at the store (hello, $2.50 a carton!) and it's better for you.  Unfortunately, lately I've not been able to make enough stock to keep us supplied and so I've found myself buying more and more cartons of vegetable stock. Today, however, I saw this article by Mark Bittman about creating stocks from all sorts of things! These are quick "stocks" too, like 5-15 minute stocks, but they add flavor and that's really all that matters.  I love the simplicity of the herb and garlic stock, the mushroom one, and even the prosciutto (ham at our house) and parmesan one.  I still always have vegetable scraps in the freezer, so if I added those to a handful of parsley (which is very cheap) and garlic, I could create a nicely flavored stock for a soup base or even for cooking rice or beans, in 15 minutes or less! 

I will definitely be utlizing Mark's ideas here and I hope you do to.  To beef up these stocks, anytime you peel carrots or chop the ends off of onions, put those scraps in a zip top bag in your freezer.  Add asparagus ends, mushroom bits, even garlic if you just used a whole clove for flavoring something and then plan to just toss it. Celery leaves are a great addition too, but don't add too many or they could make your broth bitter.  Experiment! Good luck!


Taking advantage of sales

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It may sound obvious, but sales are a great way to save.  On Cyber Monday of 2014 I was able to find BOGO deals on for my favorite tights and on the Coobie site for some new unmentionables.  These are items that usually run about $20 and I was able to get get TWO for that price! Yay for sales.

More recently, though, I was shopping the Lands End website.  My mom sent me a tunic from there for Christmas but it just wasn't my style.  So I returned it to Sears and got a Lands End gift card instead.  It just so happened that Lands End was also having a 15% EXTRA off of all sale and clearance items.  So I found a new sweater and a few pieces of activewear.  Between the extra 15% off and my gift card, I saved around $33. Every little bit helps, and that extra 15% off plus free shipping made this online shopping trip worth it.


Here you can see the promo savings at the top - $14.25, the free shipping, and the amount of my gift card.

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